Transformers #44 Review!

This issue has Needlenose and Tracks in it! And someone dies!
This issue kept going places I didn’t expect. It started right at the beginning—Needlenose and Horri-Bull were a couple? I didn’t get that from their previous appearances and I have to wonder if it was an idea after-the-fact. Certainly the death of a loved one is a tried-and-true narrative device, and oddly not one we often see in Transformers, but I have to admit that particular couple never would have occurred to me.
Needlenose and Tracks being brothers also took my by surprise, and yet it really works. We know that Transformers have familial bonds, yet once again we don’t actually get much of it. The little twist made them both work really well as lead characters, and Barber really unpacked a lot here. I can’t hear Michael McConnohie’s exaggerated “Harvard lockjaw” performance in this Tracks and that’s a little sad, but I think the character is fundamentally the same–his heart is more-or-less in the right place and he wants to protect his friends and family, but he’s just such an arrogant snob that he can’t quite manage it.
I’m not sure what’s going on with the Protectobots. The Combiner Wars crossover made a plot point out of the combiners being new individuals who don’t want to decombine because they stop existing… yet here are the Protectobots boarding a shuttle. What happened to Defensor? Either I missed something or that one was just glossed over, which seems like wasted potential.
Starscream has been sliding into madness for some time now, and it’s interesting to see that he’s fallen into full-blown hallucinations now. Or has he? It wouldn’t be the first time in this book that someone wasn’t themselves and it turned out to be mind control. I’m not sure if I want that or not, as both actual madness and manipulation have potential here. I think I lean on the side of madness, because Arcee as the voice of… I’m going to go with “guidance”… sets up a fascinating dynamic.
Despite that, I have to side with Optimus Prme: what is Arcee doing here? There were other characters who easily could have fit right into her role in this story. Covering that she used the spacebridge to get to Cybertron quickly seems unnecessary when Brawl had time to get back to Cybertron too.
There’s an interesting assortment of cameos here. The would-be assassin wearing Scourge/Nemesis Prime colors was a nice touch! Did anyone else notice Generation 2 Ramjet and Action Master Thundercracker in the background at the bar? It can’t actually be them, so we can write them off as generics or call them “new” Seeker characters. That sound you heard at the latter option was Allspark staffer Powered Convoy breathing heavily with anticipation.
Needlenose was, surprisingly to me, my favorite part of the issue. It looks like he may be the new Decepticon leader on Cybertron, and it actually makes me very happy. We’ve had all kinds of Decepticon leaders over the years, but I think this might be the first time that personal loss has been a motivation for rallying others against the Autobots. I liked that he clearly has doubts about the cause, that maybe he knows isn’t really right, but he’s dedicated himself to it because he refuses to support the alternative.
A charismatic upper-crust widower who is prone to crises of conscience? This is a very different Decepticon leader.
Favorite Line: “Arcee?! Don’t Ratbat me!” –Starscream knows how to greet his guest.
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